Beer Review: NEW BELGIUM FAT TIRE AMBER ALE

Beer Review: NEW BELGIUM FAT TIRE AMBER ALE

For nearly three decades, New Belgium’s Fat Tire Amber Ale has stood as the brewery’s flagship beer, though it has often been mistakenly referred to as “Flat Tire.” Its origin story is rooted in a co-founder’s bicycle journey through Belgium in 1988, an inspiration that ultimately led to the beer’s name and logo. In fact, the brewery embraced the bicycle motif so thoroughly that it became synonymous with the brand itself. In an effort to capitalize on this recognition, New Belgium introduced another beer under the Fat Tire name, the Fat Tire Belgian White, in 2017. However, in today’s oversaturated craft beer market, the question arises: can this nearly 30-year-old amber ale recipe still hold its own?

Appearance

Pouring Fat Tire Amber from a 12oz bottle, which I acquired as a single for $1.50 plus tax, I noted an “enjoy by” date of “12APR20” on the label, but no bottling date. Interestingly, the bottle features a ring of thicker glass halfway up the neck, embossed with “New Belgium.” This design pays homage to Belgian Trappist ales like Westvleteren and Westmalle, which use similar bottles that spell out “Trappist” on the ring section. In the glass, Fat Tire presents itself with a crystal clear amber hue and a generous, creamy, buttermilk-colored foam that lingers for several minutes.

Aroma

Upon raising the glass, I detected hints of applesauce and maple syrup. However, as the beer approached room temperature, these initial aromas remained dominant, with little else emerging to captivate the senses.

Taste

In terms of flavor, Fat Tire Amber leans towards sweetness, offering minimal bitterness. The mouthfeel carries a faint malt richness that imparts some substance to the brew. Initially, there are unwelcome red apple notes, but they dissipate as the beer warms up. Ultimately, Fat Tire concludes on a neutral note, devoid of any lingering cloying sweetness. Nevertheless, it exhibits a slightly papery quality, which is somewhat disappointing considering it falls within the brewery’s freshness window.

Mouthfeel

The mouthfeel of Fat Tire Amber is moderately thick, owing to its subtle malt fattiness. This aspect adds a semblance of body to the beer, compensating for its lack of complexity in other areas.

Overall

After more than a decade since I last contemplated Fat Tire, it remains a style that doesn’t particularly pique my interest. Amber ales often serve as an entry point for those looking to venture beyond macro pale lagers but not yet ready for the boldness of an IPA. The fact that Fat Tire has endured for so long speaks to its ability to please a broad audience. However, from a technical perspective, it falls short of perfection. With its modest ABV and unremarkable hop profile, its minor imperfections become glaring. Considering it hails from the nation’s fourth-largest craft brewery (though this may have changed due to a recent acquisition), one would expect a nearly 30-year-old flagship recipe to be refined to excellence.

Moreover, it’s perplexing that New Belgium’s flagship beer isn’t a Belgian-style ale, or at least an amber ale with a Belgian twist. The absence of house yeast aromas and a lackluster mouthfeel in comparison to many Belgian ales make it underwhelming and forgettable. This starkly contrasts with its origin story of a bicycle journey through Belgium. It appears more like a beer brewed to pay the bills than one crafted to impress the discerning craft beer aficionado. Clearly, I’m not the target audience. Nevertheless, even within the relatively uninspiring Amber Ale category, Fat Tire struggles to stand out.

Similar Beers

If you’re looking for alternatives, consider Bell’s Amber Ale, Alaskan Amber, and numerous others in this category.

In conclusion, New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale may have carved a niche for itself in the past, but in today’s competitive craft beer landscape, it fails to leave a lasting impression. While it remains approachable for a wide range of beer drinkers, its technical shortcomings and unmet potential overshadow its enduring legacy.